As noted in my recent blog post about the vehicle in motion, police officers receive extensive training in Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs (DUI) detection and enforcement during police training. Additionally, police officers take refresher courses in DUI detection periodically throughout a police officer’s career. Police officers are trained using standards and procedures promulgated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
NHTSA publishes training and educational material for use by police officers in DUI detection and enforcement courses. These training manuals offer extensive, detailed information on the effects of alcohol and its impact on driving and motor skills. I am in possession of and have reviewed several of these NHTSA training manuals including instructor manuals, participant manuals and refresher manuals.
The manuals divide the areas of a DUI stop into phases. Phase 2 is the observations a police officer makes once the vehicle is stopped. This is called the Personal Contact portion of the DUI investigation. Police officers are taught that these following indicators are excellent predictors of DUI.
Police officers are trained to get as close as possible to a driver to make observations of his or her eyes and breath. Police officers are looking for an odor of alcoholic beverage and red, bloodshot, glassy eyes. Police officers are trained to observe whether a driver has difficulty operating the vehicle’s controls or whether a driver has difficulty finding a driver’s license and insurance information and removing those items from a wallet or purse.
Police officers will listen to responses to questions to see whether the person provides appropriate answers, whether the person provides consistent answers to the questions or whether the person is slow to respond to questions. Police officers will also listen to speech patterns attempting to determine whether speech is slurred, garbled or responses are delayed. A police officer is trained that repeating questions or comments could be an indicator of alcohol impairment.
Finally, police officers watch a person exit the vehicle. Difficulty exiting the vehicle, using the vehicle for support, swaying, unsteadiness, or balance issues could be indicators to the police officer that a driver may be impaired.
The police officer will note all behaviors exhibited in determining whether to continue a DUI investigation. Police officers are trained to lean towards continuing a DUI investigation even if only a few of the above indicators are exhibited.
A DUI defense attorney must have a good knowledge of NHTSA training. It is of the utmost importance your attorney knows what a police officer is looking for in a DUI investigation. Steven Herzberg focuses his practice on DUI defense. He studies DUI police training manuals so he knows how a police officer is supposed to be trained and when a police officer does not follow training. This knowledge is critical to a successful DUI defense.